Genealogy for Dummies: How-to, Why & Local Sources
by Malcolm McCorquodale III
The best way to start is with yourself. Write down when and where you were born, when and where your parents were born, and if you remember when and where your grandparents or great-grandparents were born, write this down too. If you have children, write down their dates and places of birth.
This information can be organized on a Pedigree Chart. Next, on a separate sheet of paper, write a one or two paragraph biography for each person on your Pedigree Chart. Place all you have in a binder with your name, address, and phone number on the cover. Congratulations! You now have a real head start on your family history!
Why do it?
You may be interested in:
1. Providing charts for family reunions to show how attendees are related.
2. Tracing back to your immigrant ancestor(s) and publishing a book on their descendants.
3. Tracing your heritage back to the "old country". Maybe you’ll find a castle and coat-of-arms that belonged to your ancestor.
4. Finding out what part your ancestors played in historical events. Why did they move to the New World? Why did they move West?
5. Joining a lineage society (Sons/Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Sons/Daughters of the American Revolution, etc.).
6. Medical genealogy. What ailments run in your family? If you find a particular ailment is common, you may want to talk to your doctor about this ailment. What should you watch for? Is there something special you should do, or avoid doing?
7. Finding relatives in Hawaii that you can visit for free. <grin>
Adding to what you already know
Now comes the fun part. To find out more about your family, you can do some research. Start by talking to older relatives (parents, grandparents, aunts, even old family friends). Ask them about important events in their lives and in the lives of other family members. Ask about schools, jobs, marriages, children, parents; ask their impressions of the historical events they lived through. Ask for family stories: Did they know people who fought in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam? Where did the family come from? Record your conversations either on paper or on tape. After “exhausting” all your relatives, you’ll turn elsewhere for more information to satisfy your ever-consuming habit. Before long, you will become addicted to genealogy. Two good friends of mine spent part of their honeymoon in courthouses and graveyards in Arkansas trying to find more information about their ancestors.
Clayton Library, nationally renowned Center for Genealogical Researchis nearby at 5300 Caroline (Houston). Their phone number is: 832-393-2600. Look for family members listed on the Federal Census 1790-1930. Check with the Library for occasional "Intro" or beginner classes.
The Houston Genealogical Forumis a group of genealogists, some just starting, some very experienced.
Barnette's Family Treeis a genealogy book store, located across the street from the Clayton Library.
LDS Family History Centersare spread around Houston. Look in the phone book under "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints".
Resources on the Internet
1. If you want to find people that have your last name try www.switchboard.com. Type in the last name and Switchboard will show you many people with the same last name. While this is not really genealogy, it's fun to find other people with your last name, and if you are really lucky, you may find someone out there that has already done some relevant research on part of your family.
2. Ancestry has a web site with the Social Security Death Index and a list of some American Marriage Records, as well as several other links and search capabilities. Their address is: www.ances-try.com/SEARCH/search.htm.
3.See also:“Web Sources for Family History Information” elsewhere try www.rootsweb.com/ - quick search for YOUR family name, initial HELP in getting your search started and links to other resources.
Malcolm McCorquodale III is a HAL-PC member who has held several positions in the Houston Genealogical community: President of the Clayton Library Friends, and speaker at the Houston Genealogical Forum, the Pasadena Historical Society and the Harris County Genealogical Society.